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Lucas at Large: Road a challenging one for Healy and her Badgers

SB_120219_Healy_Yvette.jpegThe schedule is daunting: six road weekends and 26 games before the home opener.

"Fatigue is definitely something you have to consider,'' said second-year Wisconsin softball coach Yvette Healy. "Our season is long, it's a marathon.

"It's important to play well every game, but it's more about improvement --  seeing where you match up (early in the season) -- and working on the game plan to get better.''

After winning 30 games last season -- a victory total that has been reached only five previous times in school history -- the expectations are higher than normal for the Badgers, who began their daunting road stretch this weekend at South Florida's tournament in Tampa.

Sustaining that success is the challenge for Healy, who has already taken some positive strides in changing the culture of the program. By her own admission, she knows her work has just begun.

"We did create some momentum last season,'' she said. "But the fact that we had so many come-from-behind wins, half of our victories, you know that those could easily go the other direction.

"It's really going to be a challenging year for the team and our staff. But we're going into it with our eyes wide open. It's not going to be simple to walk in and replicate what we did last year.''

The Badgers, who were 30-23 overall and 9-11 in the Big Ten, return eight starters and all three pitchers. But they must replace center fielder Jennifer Krueger; a difference-maker on the base paths.

Citing the vagaries of her sport, Healy said, "It's such a fickle game. It's so much about getting the right hop here or there. We were fortunate last year, but we created some of that magic, too.''

At the moment, injuries are an issue. "We've got more than last year at this time,'' she said.

Karla Powell, Molly Spence, Mary Massei and Cassandra Darrah are four key pieces to the puzzle, and each has been forced to overcome physical hurdles leading up to the spring competition.

Given the All-Big Ten value in a majority of the cases, Healy won't rush anyone. "This first weekend,'' she said, "is about managing to keep our talent healthy and easing them back in, too.''

Nonetheless, there's an anticipation level with the opening games.

"Everybody wants to see how you match up,'' Healy agreed. "It's a good litmus test to let you know what else you need to work on. The first weekend doesn't make or break you.

"But it sets the tone for realizing how good you can be, or how much harder you have to work.''

Much of the out-of-season work has been centered on conditioning.  Healy pointed out that strength coach Stephanie Housh "makes it sport-specific'' and has "done a phenomenal job.''

"We've gotten a little creative on the coaching end, too,'' Healy went on. "We've tried not to have as much down time that you typically see in a baseball game or a softball practice.''
To the extent, she said, where "they are swinging and not breaking a sweat.''

That creativity has resulted in the use of jump ropes and medicine balls. "We're making our team get physically drained,'' she said, "in addition to having to perform those high-level hitting skills.''

A year of maturity should benefit the returning players. "We didn't add a ton to the program,'' said Healy, who also retained her staff. "We brought in just one recruited player this season.''

That has piqued her interest to see how it all comes together. Healy singled out sophomore shortstop Stephanie Peace for having the potential and the "ability to be a marquee player.''

Meghan McIntosh will anchor the pitching staff. "She has worked hard in the off-season, gotten healthy and shown leadership,'' Healy said. "It'll be interesting to see if you can put it all together.''

What does Healy want to see out of her team by the end of the month?

"We'll want to see our pitchers keeping us in games; our pitchers having command,'' she said. "Giving us a chance to win every single game is a really big thing.

"From an offensive standpoint, I think we have a lot of balance and I'm hoping we take a good aggressive approach -- I want to see our speed and power come together.

"I hope we can come out of the gate really strong and create some energy. The first couple of weeks, I want to show how excited we are to get out of the cold and get on the dirt (the diamond).

"I want to start setting the tone for the season.''

Team leadership and the privilege of competition

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the first two weeks of practice and what a privilege competition is.

Winter Practice: Week 1

The Badger softball team spent a lot of time in 2011 listening to chalk-talks and inspiring speeches from great coaches and leaders on campus. We kicked off our 2012 winter practice season last week with a few visitors willing to share words of wisdom to help break up our two-a-day workouts. Major Shannon Hellenbrand spoke to our group about leadership, before our team got to participate in a mini boot camp. The amazing thing about Shannon is that she was young, friendly and bubbly. She shared her experiences of leading two tours to Iraq, managing units comprised primarily men, many of them older than her. She led a group of engineers and oversaw a detention camp. Her leadership seemed to be centered on caring for her coworkers. By establishing relationships with the people she commanded, she got more from her employees and created a better environment. We were inspired to meet someone so young who has dedicated her life to serving her country as a leader.


Later in the week Lindsey Smith from Athletes in Action spoke to the team about opportunities at Wisconsin for service, community outreach and spiritual growth. It's amazing how many resources are available to our student-athletes at Wisconsin. There are so many groups, organizations and professionals who are dedicated to helping our student-athletes reach their potential on the field, in the classroom and in life. One of my favorite quotes that you can find on a lot of the Athletes in Action materials is from Nelson Mandela, "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down barriers. It laughs in the face of discrimination."

Winter Practice: Week 2

This week's chalk talk was one of the most inspiring for me, because it featured two of our own student-athletes who wanted to share insights into leadership and mental toughness that they learned over break. Senior Karla Powell led the way by reading a book, "Strengths-Based Leadership", by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. While the book focused on leadership in corporate America, Karla shared lessons that translated into sports. It's rewarding to hear our team echo some of the life-lessons that our staff is working to emphasize.

The two lessons that Karla talked about, which resonated with me, had to do with surrounding yourself with good people, and leading from a strength-based perspective. The book emphasized the need to surround yourself with people who are positive influences. I think that's one of the most important things we can do in life; seek out individuals that inspire us, who build us up, who challenge us and make us better people. There are so many negative influences in this world, why not choose to be around people with similar values and goals, who care for others and do things the right way. My mom always told my sister and me to surround ourselves with good people when we were growing up. That lesson has helped so much in choosing the right college, dating nice guys, finding true friends and working for amazing bosses.

The other message I liked from Karla's talk said that leaders focus on their strengths and the strengths of their organization and employees. As coaches there are so many times that we dwell on what's wrong. It's so easy to see where our players fall short and how deficient our team is. Great leaders have the unique ability to see what people do right, and accentuate the positive. Sports and life can be a long, difficult journey. There are so many challenges and pitfalls along the way. To inspire our athletes, our teams and ourselves to survive the marathon, and stay motivated and positive, we must highlight the good. If athletes don't feel good, and worthy and special, they'll never have the energy or tenacity to chip away at their weaknesses. It's a tough world out there. If we lead from a strength-based perspective, our athletes will feel the confidence and energy they need, to take on new challenges in sport and life.

Sophomore Stephanie Peace then spoke to the team about a 30 day challenge she took on. She read two, 14 day workbooks on mental training. Each day there were stories and activities to read and complete. These workbooks offer a great, tangible plan for improving mental toughness, and teaching relaxation. If our staff had made the team complete these workbooks, I'm not sure how much they would have gotten out of them. I love having one of our young leaders share some of the extra work she is doing and to inspire her peers to do the same. What a powerful way to lead by example. Everyone wanted to try these workbooks out after hearing Steph's talk.

Accountability is an amazing thing among athletes. We can all take on new challenges, or try to overcome a weakness. Yet when you stand in front of your team, commit to being more positive under pressure and in control when the going gets tough, you really become accountable for your actions. True change happens when you put yourself out there and become vulnerable in front of your teammates, committing to a goal in public.

My favorite lesson from Steph's reading on mental toughness states that "Pressure is a Privilege." How true. If you are under pressure at work, in life, or on the field, you must have an amazing opportunity in front of you. Sure, you could fail, but you're in the fight, you've stood up, put yourself out there, accepted the challenge and joined the dance. You might fail, but you have the opportunity to fail brilliantly. Not many people have the privilege of experiencing pressure. If you're feeling pressure you must have made the team, and you are probably in the game! What a privilege to compete. bootcamp2BLOG.jpg

Badgers kick off 2012 season

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UWBadgers.com sat down with head coach Yvette Healy to discuss the first week of practice. The Badgers kicked off the season on Jan. 17 and play in their first game Feb. 17.

How did the first week of practice go?

"The first week back looked good. We spent a lot of the time making sure physically we are in great shape. Practice is a lot more creative than usual. A lot more running, jumping, diving, medi balls, jump ropes, ladders and juggling. Fun stuff like that. We are really working on some differential learning with the team, trying to get them active besides just softball skills.

Were there any surprises the first week?

"Molly Spence had been hurt and she was out last year. Even with being in some pain and being out, she hits the ball a ton. It is really fun as a staff to see her hit live and hit in scrimmages. She is a tremendous athlete and she is someone you can't help but notice when you are watching practice."

You worked on fitness the first week, what does the second week include?

"We are getting into a little more philosophy stuff. We are working a lot on our swings. I think we have a lot of potential to hit home runs and attack that record. Coach Schneider has been doing a lot of the science behind it and working with our team on torque and their bat positioning, creating velocity and increasing bat speed. (There has been) a lot of strength stuff, vision training and then just your basic, grounders, fly balls and breaking down the skill and re-teaching it. I think you spend the second week tearing apart your fundamentals, making sure you are all on the same page and re-teaching. It is a great week going into a weekend of camp to have our team reviewing all of those fundamentals."


What are your goals for the next two and a half weeks of practice?

"Every week we try to advance what we are doing and just make sure we are getting better from a pitching, fielding, defensive and hitting stand point, each aspect of the game. We are ramping it up to feel more like game situations, but we were careful not to jump right in and just go from 0 to 60 right away. Really the first weeks are about getting your fundamentals down and being in great shape and having the team work really hard and get in extra work.

"The next couple weeks will really start to feel like game mode, where every drill feels more a little more rushed, a little more sense of urgency, a little more game like.


Three words for team culture

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about three words that represent the core principles of Wisconsin softball.

Our softball staff was in Las Vegas last week at the NFCA National Convention listening to the top speakers and presenters in our sport while working on legislation for softball. One of the best speakers was Eric Kapitulik. He is a U.S. Marine Corps officer with a great background in leadership. He shared a lot of insight in dealing with adversity in the team setting.

My favorite message from Eric was simple, can you, your staff and team all agree on the three core principles of what it means to be one of the women of Wisconsin softball? What three words would you use to describe what it means to be a Badger? What goals, values and standards do we live in our program? The three words that I would use are: tenacious, composed and family. The women of Wisconsin softball are tenacious, composed and family. Those three words are simple, yet powerful.

Obviously in a high level, Division 1 program, you've got to be competitive. But tenacity takes competitiveness to a whole different level. The single biggest attribute our staff looks for in young recruits is their temperament. We want kids that love softball, and love to compete.  Some people just naturally love the thrill of working hard, developing their game and winning. Yet even more powerful than just competiveness is tenacity. Those who refuse to be stifled by obstacles become champions. I've always been drawn to great underdog stories. Talent truly is overrated. Those athletes that I have been most proud of in my coaching and playing experience are the ones with the most fight. Those that continue to battle, scrap and win, even when they face setbacks, have tenacity. When you find someone who refuses to lose at all she does, she will over-achieve in all aspects of her life.

Composure is actually my favorite compliment to pay. It goes beyond being calm and poised in the face of adversity. Young women who are composed have this amazing aura of confidence. They have swagger. They trust and believe in their ability and preparation. Composure only comes to those who know they will achieve and overcome. They have experienced tribulations before, and found a way to pull themselves up and rise above the challenge. Composed people are usually selfless, more focused on solving problems than complaining about the situation. When you can find athletes with great composure, they are usually those who worked hardest and feel confident in how they prepared. They know that failure is only temporary and success is a process.

Finally, the women of Wisconsin softball are family. These words have never seemed more meaningful to me than now, as the mother of a three-year-old. Although the word family means different things to different people, we can all agree that family is forever. At its core, family is about selflessness.  Family members have your best interest in mind, sacrificing to make others' lives better than their own. Family is about unconditional love, about putting others' happiness before your own. Family is about having relationships that matter, being there for each other through the good and bad and truly connecting with someone.  We talk a lot about being a great teammate and a great person in the Wisconsin softball family. Our coaches are here because they are good people that care about the young women in our program and love to teach.

I am proud to work with the women of Wisconsin softball every day.

The power of words

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about the power of words and the impact they can have on a team.

With a short week of classes, the Badger softball team is lifting and conditioning hard, before Thanksgiving break. There has been a lot of excitement in our offices today, as we celebrate our men's cross country's fifth national championship! They just won the NCAA Cross Country Championship last night. It's been fun to see the trophy and hear stories about the police escort the Badger bus received driving back through Madison last night. We have our final home football game on Saturday, as the Badgers battle for a spot in the new Big Ten Championship title game.

Our team meeting this week is focusing on the power of what we say as teammates. This is such an important message this time of year. As coaches, it's hard not to see our team every day. Our athletes are spending a lot of time studying and working with tutors as we enter the last few weeks of class.

We're giving the team a few quotes from the book, "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz. The book shares ideas on how to be a better person, and teammate. The first agreement is, "Be impeccable with your word". Ruiz states, "Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love."

It's amazing how powerful all of our words can be. What we say as coaches and athletes can inspire, or attack. Our words can motivate, or they can cause people to shut down. All of us have the ability to help create a positive, productive, successful environment within our program. We can create drama, or minimize it with words we choose to use.

In the "Four Agreements", Ruiz goes on to say, "You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love. How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself are directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you are impeccable with your word, you feel good; you feel happy and at peace."

Our goal in the Wisconsin softball family, is to create a competitive environment where the student-athletes feel challenged, supported and respected. We want our athletes to be successful students and people. Hopefully we all take a moment this holiday season to reflect on how lucky and fortunate we are. Our goal is to use our words to make this softball team, athletics department and university a better, happier, more successful and productive place.

Badger Blog: Fall festivities

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about celebrating the fall season in Madison.

What a beautiful fall in Madison. This fall has been filled with pumpkins, football and falling leaves. The leaves are all changing colors, with red, orange and yellow trees everywhere on campus. We've had beautiful weather with a few sunny 60 and 70 degree days over the past few weeks. People are jogging along the lake and out playing with their dogs everywhere you look. Our campus looks like fall postcard right now with the sun shining on the lakes and the leaves changing colors all around us.

The softball team celebrated Halloween with a costume contest, dinner and pumpkin carving party at my house last week. My three year old daughter Grace was a fairy princess with big purple wings and a butterfly mask. Grace has prayed for the "Badger softball girls" every night since the party. Her favorite costumes were the Bee Catcher and the Nerds. Our team gatherings make me feel so fortunate as a wife, mom and coach. There are many times when the travel and rigors of the job make it tough to balance. Yet, when my husband Shawn and I have the team, coaches and staff over to our house, and we see Grace playing with the student-athletes -- looking up to them as role models -- everything seems to fit together perfectly.

We had a fun two-hand touch football game with our staff and the team at the field last week too. It was a great workout and non-stop laughs. We have some hilarious personalities on our team. I really enjoyed mixing in and playing too. Coach Schneider played football in college, so his team had a bit of an advantage, but we still finished in a tie. This is the second year that we've ended the fall with flag football and I think this tradition will stick.

Badger Blog: Accountability, Ownership, Innovation

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about how to get ready for the upcoming season.

This week is a time of transition for the Badger softball team. We are wrapping up our fall practice schedule and preparing for our off-season. Since school started, we have been practicing 5-6 days a week for 3-4 hours a day. The team has worked extremely hard in the weight room and on the field. Now that our non-traditional season has ended, our team will lift and condition six hours a week and the coaches will run individual skill work-outs two hours a week. We'll breakdown swings, use a lot of video and game film and make any major adjustments that we need to now. This is also a great time for our team to bear-down academically, spending extra time with tutors and TA's preparing for midterms and finals. 

Our team chalk-talk yesterday focused on three words, "Accountability, Ownership and Innovation." Below are the coaches' notes from our talk. 

The past does not predict the future, yet creating inertia is one of the greatest challenges in life. I'm sure you've all heard the saying in physics, "objects in motion stay in motion, an object at rest stays at rest." If a pendulum is swinging, it will continue to swing. A penny sitting on the counter will continue to sit there, unless some source of energy appears and a force is applied to that object. If you've never done anything, it's easiest and most likely that you will continue not to do something. If you create a habit of getting up, working hard and accomplishing things, you will continue to do that. That's the reality. That's the science.

I think the greatest life lesson learned through sports is that as individuals we have the ability to break the cycles of the past and create a new, successful future. Think for a minute about your past, about your family, about your heritage. What was life like for your parents, grandparents and great grand-parents? Maybe things have been easy. Perhaps it's been a comfortable progression of well-educated, comfortable ancestors who all have college degrees, who all have houses, large bank accounts, retirement funds and college accounts to support each child. Maybe every marriage has been happy and prosperous, lasting 50+ years, and your siblings are all stand-up members of society with great jobs who make your parents' lives easier. Maybe you come from a long line of happy, successful family members.

I would guess that reality is a bit different. Just picture what the holidays will feel like with the crazy cousins, and dysfunctional aunts and uncles.  Many of us have ancestors who didn't speak English, who had no money, no education and no support. Many families struggle now and have struggled over the years. I am sure there have been a lot of failed marriages, lost jobs and hard times that have fallen on our families. 

Who is the first person on each side of your family to go to college? Certainly a college degree doesn't guarantee you job or make you a better, more successful person, but it does stack the odds in your favor. It does put you in a better position to succeed, providing you with more options and opportunities.

Just as the past does not have to predict the future in life, the same is true in sports.

Can you create something new, forge a legacy that never existed before and build something substantial that will serve as the groundwork, as the solid foundation upon which all great future accomplishments are built?

The true challenge here at Wisconsin is creating a dominant winning legacy in softball when it has never existed before. When you don't have a culture of winning to work in, it is the responsibility of each coach and student-athlete to create that environment; to search out, dream and create that culture which breeds success. How do you know how the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year or Big Ten Player of the Year trains, acts and leads if she's not on our team? You have to study it, look for it and seek it out. Look at other programs here at Wisconsin and see how national champions train.

As we transition from our fall season, into our individual winter works, the key ingredient is you! Ownership and accountability happen when you take full responsibility for your success or failure. Whether or not you are a hall-of-fame athlete, or team at Wisconsin, comes down to you. Sure I think coaches have a huge impact on your success. I believe that I have hired two of the smartest and most caring softball coaches in the country in Randy Schneider and Tracie Adix. They love the game, they are competitive, they have a wealth of knowledge and they can teach. The fact is, I think they have said most of the things that need to be said already. I think they have pointed out your deficiencies, they have shown you film on what you need to work on and they have met with you about your weaknesses. You have the knowledge, you have the drills and what you do next is on you. One of my favorite quotes is, "All know the way; few actually walk it." Are you passionately driven to achieve your dreams? Do you have dreams for what you want your personal experience and your team experience to be like here at Wisconsin? Do you have goals? What will your legacy be? What will your classes' and your team's legacy be?

I want to be very clear as we head into our fall meetings, that you will manage your own destiny. No excuses, no explanations. You are the most important person regarding your success. Every team is filled with special student-athletes that over-achieve, that break the mold and forge new paths. Every great program has a few special kids that changed the course of the program, changed the culture, set the team on a path of dominance and consistent high performance and achievement. We are looking for those leaders that are game-changers and history makers to emerge.


Badger Blog: Building leaders

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about last week's games and the UW sports medicine department.

What a great weekend in sports here at Wisconsin. We played our final three games of the fall softball season at home last Friday and Sunday, going 3-0. We had a great pregame meal Friday afternoon at the Kohl Center, our basketball and hockey arena. We got to visit with our women's hockey coach, USA Gold Medal Olympian Mark Johnson, before the meal. Women's hockey dominated in its opening weekend, scoring more than 20 goals in two games. Our men's basketball coach, Bo Ryan, addressed the softball team too, attributing his years of Big Ten conference championships and NCAA Sweet 16 finishes to teamwork, toughness and great chemistry.

Friday night was an exciting game battling DePaul. Our junior pitcher Meghan McIntosh did a great job keeping hitters off balance, working ahead in the count and inducing groundballs. She only gave up three hits and one walk, while striking out five and getting 11 hitters to ground into outs. Meghan has always had great speed and spin, getting gunned at 67mph, yet she went 3-0 this fall by hitting her spots, working ahead and changing speeds.

Redshirt sophomore Molly Spence hit a game-winning walk-off home run in the bottom of the 7th of the DePaul game, crushing a change up over the fence. Molly spent last season rehabbing her shoulder. We are so proud of her leadership, focus and toughness, battling through a shoulder injury, surgeries and a long year of doctor's visits and rehab. Our athletic trainer Ashley Parr had a huge smile on her face as Molly trotted around the bases.

I believe we have one of the best sports medicine departments in the country here at Wisconsin. Our team physicians and connection to the UW hospitals is amazing. Yet the most impressive part of our healthcare is definitely the people. Our athletic trainers go above and beyond the call of duty, working long hours before and after our practices, and on days off, keeping our team healthy and happy. Beyond physical therapy and rehab, our athletic trainers manage the nutrition of our student-athletes. Each Wisconsin student-athlete attends a healthy shopping and cooking seminar each year, to learn what to choose in the cafeteria, how to get the most nutrition for your money at the grocery store and, of course, quick and easy recipes for nutritious meals and snacks. Each athlete leaves the nutrition seminar with a binder filled with great recipes and cooking tips.

Our main function here as coaches at the University of Wisconsin is not only to create a winning legacy athletically, but also to help transform our student-athletes in mature, healthy, capable young women who will lead on the field, in the classroom and in the community.  The college years are critical for helping transition students into adulthood. The health and nutrition lessons learned here at Wisconsin will last a lifetime, as our Badgers learn how to build strength and character through adversity and teamwork.  


Badger Blog: Chalk-talk

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In today's blog entry, head coach Yvette Healy writes about last week's games and assistant coach Randy Schneider's chalk-talk.

What a great week in Badger softball. We had the opportunity to travel to Chicago last weekend for our first bus trip and hotel stay as a team. Our football team played at Soldier Field while we competed at Loyola and UIC. It was a great bonding trip to spend a weekend together as a team; we even got to enjoy a little deep dish Chicago pizza after beating Loyola Friday night.

We had a few great practices this week, breaking down film, working on the fundamentals and getting in a great sweat yesterday with our "Texas BP". We opened the season last year at the University of Texas, going 4-2 on our first road trip. We designed a great 1.5 hour batting practice/"BP" workout that featured as ton of fly balls and grounders, combined with batting practice on the field with live runners. It's amazing how much work you can get in when everything is highly organized, and planned out. Our staff takes a lot of pride in teaching the game, but also being efficient. We love to see our student-athletes hustling on and off the field, diving, playing hard, sweating and learning. It was a great day both offensively and defensively.

The highlight of the week was coach Schneider's chalk-talk. He spent a few hours on Wednesday helping our student-athletes understand what it takes to be an outstanding student-athlete. One of our biggest challenges in taking over the Badger softball program has been creating a championship culture. It takes a lot of mentoring and teaching to help create a culture of competition, exemplary work-ethic and belief. Coach Schneider challenged the team to make history, take ownership and go above and beyond the call of duty, doing extra every day.

One of my favorite quotes that coach Schneider uses is; "You're either training for something, or you're not". It's so simple, yet profound. Either you're on a path of discipline and goals, working towards some great accomplishment, or you're just coasting.  Either you wake up every day motivated to get better, or you spend your life being average.

Coach sent the poem below to the team, and it really summarizes what being a successful, motivated, division-one student-athlete is all about:

Don't wait for some distant day to come,
it may be too late before you've even begun.
Not everyone will agree with all you decide.
Be true to yourself first and foremost.
The only important thing in life is what you do
with the time you spend here on earth.
Don't be afraid to follow your desires,
they are not silly nor selfish.
Take the time and do what makes you feel alive.
Leave your fears and regrets in the past,
for this is where they belong.
Don't cloud today with things that can't be undone.
You have no more control over yesterday or tomorrow,
than you do the raging of your passions.
Do not quiet these dreams nor quench your desires.
For if you do, your journey is ended.
You have only today to begin anew and follow your dreams.
For in the end all we have are our memories.
When the twilight comes to us, let there be,
No excuses, no explanations, no regrets.

Badger Blog: Back to school

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Catch up with coach Healy as the Badgers return to Madison for the fall season.

It's great to have the softball team back on campus and practicing. I'm amazed at how fast the summer flew by. This was the Healy family's first summer in Madison, and although I was on the road recruiting and doing camps around the country, my husband Shawn, our three year old daughter Grace and I found some time to enjoy  Madison's Farmer's Market, the Zoo, a few festivals and the beaches.

We had our first football game on Thursday, Sept. 1, beating UNLV 51-17.  It was nearly 90 degrees at kick-off, one of the hottest games ever played at Camp Randall. 

Last week we had our softball kick-off meeting and classes began. Our men's hockey coach, Mike Eaves, addressed the softball team, sharing some words of wisdom and keys to success. Mike won a national championship as a student-athlete at Wisconsin in 1977 and led the Badgers to a national championship in 2006 as the head coach. Mike is competitive, dynamic and passionate. It's no wonder UW hockey leads the country in attendance, filling the Kohl Center with nearly 16,000 fans every home game. 
Mike shared Wisconsin hockey's focus this season, "PAD". "P" is for Persistent work ethic, "A" is for attitude and "D" is for discipline.

Persistent Work Ethic. The goal is to show up each day and truly focus on the task at hand. Get a little better every day. Create a ritual before stepping on the ice or field that allows you to tune out distraction and prepare to learn. Appreciate the opportunity to grow. Be deliberate about practice, do something that will turn your head around before entering the arena each day. 

Attitude. See everything as a challenge, negative attitudes only gets in the way of your progression. Mike spoke about the book "Talent Is Overrated", by Geoff Colvin. The greatest life lessons and achievements come from those who are determined and have great attitudes. If your approach is great, and you stay positive throughout the learning process, you'll surpass even those who walk through the doors with more talent.

Finally, Discipline. Discipline is not a bad thing. It's not only a word that means you've done something wrong. True self-discipline allows you to organize your life, prioritize your tasks and accomplish. Discipline is the opposite of chaos. If you had no order or organization to your schedule, you'd never get your homework finished, you'd never find anything in your room.  Discipline allows you to focus time on the most important tasks, prioritize your life and ultimately achieve your goals due to sacrifice and order.  

Our Badger softball team is so lucky to meet and learn from some of the best coaches in the country. After winning 30 games in 2011, we know our biggest challenge will be sustaining what we've started to create, and creating a culture of success.

Great athletic teams:
1) Create momentum.
2) Sustain moment.
3) Build a winning legacy. 

That's our goal for 2012.